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Coach was like family

YOUNGSTOWN — Jill Cupples remembers practicing shooting a basketball with Ed DiGregorio in the background.

The former Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach equated it to putting your hand through a fishing net, one of the many one-liners DiGregorio used in his repertoire.

“It took more than the five on the court. It took all of us to win,” Cupples said.

Family, that was the atmosphere DiGregorio permeated from day one around the Penguins’ program.

DeGregorio died Sunday at the age of 93.

He spent 20 seasons (1983-2003) with the Penguins, compiling a career record of 319-241, leading YSU to three NCAA Tournament berths in the 1990s and six 20-win seasons.

DiGregorio was a 1945 graduate of Youngstown East High School and a 1951 graduate of Mount Union College. He received his bachelor’s degree in education. In 1961, DiGregorio earned his master’s degree from Westminster College.

His coaching resume includes stints as head coach in football, basketball and baseball at North Lima High School, as well as serving as principal. He also was head coach in football and basketball at Youngstown East.

Former player Monica Vicarel, a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate who was on YSU’s 1999-2000 NCAA Tournament team, was in Youngstown in February for the 20th reunion of that team.

“The one biggest thing for us that year is we used to bring a chain with us,” Vicarel said. “Your chain is only as strong as your weakest link. We each had a link to a chain. Before every game, we would say something positive and we would link the chain together. We knew if we were together, we would be strong. Separated we wouldn’t. It grew from there, like a family. Coach embodied that in the coaching staff when we were there.

“You could see 20 years later we all came back. We all have our lives, but we knew how special it was and how much we cared for each other and meant to each other during that time.”

Resiliency was something DiGregorio had during his tenure, especially in the 1990s when the former YSU coach was going through a bout with cancer.

“My parents were just as upset as I was to know he’s gone,” said Colleen Cook, who played on YSU’s first two NCAA Tournament teams. “It feels like an era has ended. In the end, we know God is going to call us all home. He was a man of faith, too.”

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